All Confederate monuments should be removed from public display across the US.

April 5, 2019

 

For a relatively young country, the US is awash with history.  This really is unsurprising given the tumultuous events that have happened in American history – the Revolution, Pearl Harbor, the Civil Rights Movement, 9/11 to name some of the more obvious ones.  And, of course, there is the Civil War.

 

The carnage and socio-economic dislocation of the nineteenth century Civil War was vast and its consequences profound.  With the Union victorious over the rebel Confederacy, the US could formally consign the abomination of slavery to the ash-heap of history country-wide.

However, over 150 years later, and, bizarrely, there are hundreds of Confederate monuments still to be found across the country.  While most are in a select few states in the South, a few may even be found in the likes of New England, Montana and Idaho.

 

The non-profit Southern Poverty Law Center asserts in a 2016 report that there are“718 [Confederate] monuments and statues, nearly 300 of which are in Georgia, Virginia or North Carolina; 109 public schools named for Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis or other Confederate icons…and 10 U.S. military bases named for Confederates.”  [1]

 

Since 2016, there have been some high profile Confederate monument removals, but there are still, sadly, plenty more to go.

 

On top of that, four states currently have an echoed battle-flag of the Confederacy as their current state flag (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia) while Mississippi goes full pelt with a complete representation of the “Stars and Bars” incorporated into their state flag.  [2]

Let’s be clear here.  The Confederacy was a white supremacist philosophy – plain and simple.  There is nothing nostalgic about slavery or the elevated position of white slave and land owners over what they saw as “lesser” peoples. 

 

The idea that Confederate monuments and flags somehow represent “heritage not hate” is a cover that is as robust as wet tissue paper.  It’s quite telling to ponder on how previous British, French or Spanish colonial rule is not given such special display status when compared to the Confederacy and they are each just earlier versions of American “heritage.”

 

Quite simply, Confederate monuments need to be removed from public display.  Period.  They are an affront to the contemporary inclusiveness that the US stands for.  It is no coincidence that modern white supremacists are quick to jump defend their continued display.  That really tells you all you need to know as to what these monuments actually stand for.

 

Other countries around the world are acutely as aware of their history as the US, but they have no need to flag up darker periods by way of masses of displayed, highly questionable monuments.  Germany, for example, has a very intense appreciation of its modern history and all that that entails. 

 

It would be both preposterous and extremely alarming for modern Germany to celebrate “heritage not hate” by having monuments across the country of World War Two Wehrmacht or SS generals and officers.

 

When South Africa overthrew its racist apartheid system in the mid-1990s, it too had to come to terms with its past and recognize that the future needed a much different feel, a much different approach.  Consequently, immediately post-apartheid, South Africa began the removal of statues and monuments that had been previous tributes to white supremacists that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Confederacy. [3]

 

The Confederacy was a very real, very bloody experiment in not only trying to preserve slavery, but also in out and out rebellion, sedition and treason against the US.  That does not need to be celebrated in any way shape or form – be that by statues, monuments, flags or what have you.

 

It is now way beyond time for all Confederate monuments to be removed from public display across the US.  If they need to be displayed in a museum, then fine.  That would not be a public display and they could then be deemed to be of genuine historical interest - behind museum doors.  Facilities should be renamed and state flags need to be redesigned.  Until such time as they are, they will continue to act as lightning rods and dog whistles for white supremacists. 

That is simply unacceptable in the US of the twenty-first century.

[1]  https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/confederate-monuments

[2]  http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/these-5-states-still-use-confederate-symbols-their-flags

[3]  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/18/the-guardian-view-on-confederate-statues-they-must-fall

 

 

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